Ireland’s Leona Maguire has claimed a breakthrough LPGA Tour win at the Drive On Championship in Florida. As the champagne popped around her on the 18th green, she described the victory as being “17 years in the making.”
The Cavan native sealed the victory with a final round 67 – with her birdies coming on the second, the seventh and eighth, the 10th and 11th, 13th and the Par 4 16th hole. Her only bogeys came on the third and 18th holes, as she finished up at 18 under par overall.
On Friday Maguire shot a bogey-free 65 to share the lead at Fort Myers – the 27-year-old former Duke player in her second event of the season was hugely impressive in adding to her opening 66. On Saturday she sealed the victory in style at the 54-holes event.
Maguire – into her first full season having played two rookie seasons due to the Covid-disrupted nature of her first year with a full card – finished three shots ahead of American Lexi Thompson.
The star of Europe’s Solheim Cup win over the United States last year (unbeaten with four and a half points from a possible five), Maguire will play in all 11 tournaments in 2022 – including all five Majors – right up to the US Open at Pine Needles in June.
Last year she was the recipient of the Irish Golf Writers’ Association Professional Player of the Year, only the second woman in the awards’ 45 years history to achieve the honour. In 2021 she secured two runners-up finishes – to Lydia Ko in the Lotte Championship and to Nelly Korda in the Meijer Classic – in claiming five top-10 finishes on the LPGA Tour. This year she’s already gone one better.
“You kind of wonder is it ever going to happen,” she told Sky Sports reporters after her final round. “I have a lot of people to thank and it’s been a long road, but feeling more relief now than anything else.
“I knew my game was close, I did a lot of hard work in the off season and yeah finally got there in the end. It’s huge for Irish golf, there was never an Irish player on the Tour never mind a winner, so hopefully there’s a lot of people watching at home tonight with big smiles on their faces and little girls watching hoping that they can one day hole a putt like that too.”
The country’s first winner on the LGPA Tour previously spent a record 135 weeks as the number one female amateur golfer in the world – yet despite all her achievements thus far this still feels like only the beginning.